Mawer & Taylor are Trophy Class champions after tense Highlands finale
Barton Mawer and Greg Taylor are the 2015 Australian GT Trophy Class champions after a tension-filled final round at Highlands Motorsport Park in New Zealand.
Although Mawer and Taylor only needed to finish Saturday’s second hour-long race to win the class for superseded models after placing second in the first heat, a clash in the finale with Championship Class driver Peter Fitzgerald left their Adina Apartment Hotels Audi R8 LMS bogged in a sand-trap.
But the #38 made it to the chequered flag, albeit three laps down, after a recovery vehicle towed the machine to safety.
The race 2 contretemps followed another incident on Friday, when Mawer glanced the concrete wall on the outside of the high-speed final corner during the second qualifying session.
Fortunately the damage was comparatively minor, and thanks to a big effort from the Wall Racing crew, who were up until the early hours of Saturday morning to ensure that everything was sorted, Mawer and Taylor were able to fight for the championship.
The winners’ final points tally of 752 was 21 points clear of season-long rival Mark Griffith in another Audi, with Theo Koundouris third in a Porsche 996 S.
On Sunday Mawer teamed with Championship Class front-runner Nathan Antunes to win the Trophy Class in the Highlands 101, a stand-alone race over 101 laps of the 4.1km South Island track.
Despite a delayed getaway from Highlands’ adaptation of the traditional Le Mans start, in which co-drivers ran down the pit lane to remove tags from the waiting cars, Mawer climbed steadily through the field.
He was running second outright when he handed the car over to Antunes, who recovered from a late-race spin avoiding another driver to finish an excellent eighth outright, more than a minute ahead of the second Trophy Class car.
Afterwards Mawer was thrilled to be part of the Adina Apartment Hotels team’s win on debut in the Australian GT Championship.
“This year Greg and I were up against some experienced competition in the Trophy Class, but our strategy of posting consistent high placings instead of trying to beat faster cars and drivers in every race proved to be the right one,” he said.
“We won the first two rounds while our rivals came unstuck, and then we stayed about 20-30 points ahead until the end of the series.We finished every race, and made the podium at every round.
“We had a few anxious moments at this round, starting when I missed the apex of the corner onto Pit Straight in qualifying.
“The track was quite slippery in the sections that had just been resurfaced, and I slid wide on the ‘marbles’ and gave the wall a whack.
“But the Wall Racing boys did a great job to have the car as good as new for the warm up session on Saturday morning.
“After we finished second in the first race our plan for the second one was to be ultra-careful and just finish, which isn’t as easy as it sounds.
“Greg’s incident with Fitzy was something that’s always on the cards in GT racing, because of the multiple car classes and drivers with varying levels of experience.
“All that matters is that we finished the race and won the Trophy Class for the year!”
Mawer added that Taylor’s decision to step back and let Antunes co-drive in Sunday’s long-distance race was a smart move.
“It was nice of Greg to stand aside, because it looked like Nathan would miss the 101 when his Audi was damaged in a crash in the first race on Saturday,” he said.
“He was feeling down after missing out on the chance to battle for the outrightChampionship title too.
“But since he’ll be co-driving with Greg and me in the Bathurst 12-hour next year, Greg saw an opportunity for us to get some race experience togetherbefore the big event.
“We made a few changes to the car overnight, and as a result we qualified ninth overall and comfortably fastest of the Trophy Class cars.
“A small problem with the transmission not selecting the right gear at the start put me back to about 15th on the first lap, but I had great fun picking off the cars ahead.
“The last few laps in my stint were awesome – with a light fuel load the Audi was really hooked up!”
Mawer acknowledged the roles of team owner-driver Taylor and the Wall Racing crew in their successful 2015 GT racing season.
“Greg drove exceptionally well considering this was his first full season of racing. These cars are as quick as V8 Supercars, and there were some top international and local drivers in the field, so he jumped in at the deep end.
“Most importantly Greg listens to advice and doesn’t drive beyond his ability and experience, which is a common mistake by amateurs in pro-am racing.
“And Wall Racing did an outstanding job in the workshop and the pit lane. Their preparation and engineering support deserves as much credit as our skill and daring on the track.”
2015 Australian GT Championship round 6 – November 13-14, Highlands Motorsport Park (Cromwell, New Zealand)
QUALIFYING: Barton Mawer 4th in Trophy Class
RACE 1 (34 laps/139.4km): Barton Mawer/Greg Taylor 2nd in Trophy Class
RACE 2 (33 laps/135.3km): Greg Taylor/Barton Mawer 5th in Trophy Class
TROPHY CLASS FINAL POINTSCORE
1. Barton Mawer/Greg Taylor (2011 Audi R8 LMS) 752
2. Mark Griffiths (2011 Audi R8 LMS) 731
3. Theo Koundouris (Porsche 996 GT3-S) 718
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